Player Profile: Jessica Owers, author of Shannon
by Jon Page - November 4th, 2013
Tell us about your latest creation:
‘Shannon’, for release by Random House (Ebury Press) on 1 November 2013.
Wartime Sydney, a small and weedy racehorse was kicking his way through the top tier of Australian racing. He was Shannon, one of the fastest horses the nation had ever seen. Between 1943 and 1947, Shannon broke record after record with his garrulous jockey Darby Munro. When they sensationally lost the Epsom Handicap by six inches, they forever were stamped by the race
they should have won.
Sold in August 1947 for the highest price ever paid at auction for an Australian thoroughbred, Shannon ended up in America. Through headline-snatching pedigree flaws, acclimatization and countless hardships, he blitzed across the ritzy, glitzy racetracks of 1948 California. Smashing track records, world records, records set by Seabiscuit, the Australian bolted into world fame with speed and courage that defied all odds.
Long before Black Caviar, or So You Think and Takeover Target, Shannon was Australia’s first international racehorse. Starring Hall of Fame trainers and jockeys, Hollywood lawyers and legends Bernborough and Citation, this is his tremendous story.
Home is Sydney, its Eastern Suburbs to be exact. I am a very loyal Sydneysider.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
As a child, I first wanted to be an author above anything else. When I was about six or seven, I called it a ‘book writer’. I had no idea my radar was so spot on
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
My newest book, ‘Shannon’, is my greatest work. It is my second book, and I have come a long way down the road of narrative nonfiction. I have learned my craft and I’d like to think I’ve learned it well. I am immensely proud of ‘Shannon’.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?: I write in a little enclave office in my townhouse.
My desk is a huge, beautiful, leather-topped thing, and unless I am in the middle of a chapter or article, it is very neat. Behind me is a floor to ceiling built-in cabinet of racing books. It has become a lovely writing space.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
I read racing almost all the time… biographies by other racing authors from around the world, historical racing books, anything that makes me more educated about my genre. But I also love these books, so it’s not a chore for me to read them. Outside of that, I love to read about the craft of writing, and I go
back to a few select works of fiction too – ‘We Of The Never Never’ in particular.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
‘Playing Beattie Bow’ is one of the earliest novels that left an impression on my
childhood, and then as a teenager I was impressed with ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, which was on the high-school curriculum.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
Mrs Aeneas Gunn (née Jeannie Gunn), the central character in ‘We Of The Never Never’. Though largely biographical, Mrs Gunn spins an extraordinary adventure in 1901 Northern Territory. I wouldn’t mind having memories like hers. Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?: I love to hit the open road. It’s one of my great, great passions.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
I can’t resist a good vegetable lasagne (I know, so boring), and I am addicted to Coca-Cola (which gets much worse in the middle of a manuscript).
Who is your hero? Why?:
I might not call him ‘my hero’, but Stephen King has been an enormous writing hero for me. His discipline, his attitude to writing well and his resultant success have been tremendous guidelines for my own career. He has been a standout (absentee) mentor.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
Without a doubt… the digital age. My children will grow up in it. They will read on tablets and phone screens in abbreviated text sentences, and less and less they will learn grammar and proper sentence structure, the ability to write well. And I expect there will be a day when they won’t ever need to pick up a hardcopy book, so where will that leave us authors?